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Highlights

Today, and in the foreseeable future, military operations require U.S. personnel, in particular Army and Marine Corps ground forces, to communicate and interact with multinational partners and local populations. The committee report accompanying a proposed bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 directed GAO to review several issues related to language and culture training for Army and Marine Corps general purpose forces. For this report, GAO evaluated (1) the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps had developed strategies with elements such as goals, funding priorities, and metrics to guide training approaches and investments that were aligned with Department of Defense (DOD) planning efforts and (2) DOD's approach for identifying training requirements for Army and Marine Corps forces that will deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. To do so, GAO analyzed Army and Marine Corps strategies and training requirements and interviewed cognizant officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To help ensure that the Army's and Marine Corps' strategies address key planning elements and are aligned with departmentwide efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy to assign responsibilities for training program performance and include in subsequent updates of the Army's and Marine Corps' respective language and culture strategies: (1) training priorities and investments that are necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives; and (2) results-oriented performance metrics to measure progress in achieving the strategic goals and objectives.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. To identify language and culture training priorities and investments that are necessary to achieve strategic goals and objectives, the Army included in a May 2011 Training and Doctrine Command order clear direction for all agencies with education, training, and training support responsibilities to review the Army Culture and Foreign Language Strategy and conduct an internal, bottom-up review of existing missions and identify the gaps and/or inconsistencies that currently exist between mission execution and the requirements directed by the Army's strategy and also to determine the resource requirements for any identified gaps. As of August 2015, both the Army and Marine Corps have drafted strategies that are intended to update service-level guidance on language and culture capabilities. We obtained a copy of the draft Army strategy and it identities their training priorities; however, the strategy does not identify the investments or performance measures needed to ensure they achieve their goals and objectives. We were unable to obtain a copy of the Marine Corps? draft strategy. We are encouraged that the Army and Marine Corps continue to update their strategies but continue to believe that future updates should address this recommendation in order to align departmentwide efforts, develop budget requests that reflect its priorities, and measure progress in implementing various initiatives.
Department of Defense To enhance DOD's ability to set strategic direction for its language and culture training efforts, and better align its efforts to develop and implement plans and measure progress against established goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to issue guidance to establish within the implementation plan for the Department of Defense Strategic Plan for Language Skills, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Capabilities (2011-2016) a clearly defined planning process with mechanisms, such as procedures and milestones, by which it can reach consensus with the military departments, coordinate and review approval of updates to plans, synchronize the development of plans with the budget process, monitor the implementation of initiatives, and report progress, on a periodic basis, towards achieving established goals.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation citing that its implementation plan for language skills, regional expertise, and cultural capabilities for fiscal years 2011- 2016 will include a clearly defined planning process for working with the military departments to coordinate plans, synchronize plans with resources, and evaluate and report performance as the department works toward its strategic plan. In January 2014, DOD reported that officials representing defense organizations had finalized the implementation plan and that it was approved by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. The implementation plan establishes mechanisms to reach consensus with the military departments on priorities, coordinate and gain approval for updates to objectives and initiatives, align department-wide efforts and budget funding requests with the department's priorities, monitor implementation, and report progress through the establishment of measures and milestones, all of which were elements specifically identified by GAO. As a result, DOD has the tools it needs to set the strategic direction for language and culture training efforts and measure progress in implementing the department's various initiatives.
Department of Defense To provide a consistent approach for identifying predeployment language and culture training requirements for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, the Secretary of Defense direct the Commander of U.S. Central Command to establish a comprehensive, analytically based process to: (1) identify and approve predeployment training requirements and include in this documentation a description of the analysis to be conducted prior to approving the requirements; and (2) coordinate with key stakeholders, such as the military services and subordinate commands to ensure that requirements are synchronized among and within DOD components and with departmentwide guidance, and solicit feedback on service training approaches in meeting operational needs.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation citing coordination involved with developing a fragmentary order issued in March 2011. In May 2012, U.S. Central Command released an updated order that established a training requirements management process designed to provide a framework to analyze, specify, and validate U.S. Central Command theater training requirements in coordination with key stakeholders in order to provide a consistent method for identifying and approving training requirements. The order includes a listing of key stakeholders to ensure the training requirements are synchronized among U.S. Central Command subordinate commands, service force providers, service training organizations, and the Joint Staff, as well as a detailed description of a revised training requirements analysis and validation process.

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